'Autopilot Addiction' Doomed Air France Flight
Startling lack of training endangers passengers, experts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2012 3:50 AM CDT
Updated Jun 10, 2012 10:54 AM CDT
Brazilian sailors recover debris from Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean.    (AP Photo/Brazil's Air Force, file)

(Newser) – Airbus likes to boast that its A330 jet is "pilot-proof," but that sentiment may have helped trigger one of the worst airline disasters in recent years, experts tell ABC. They say that the co-pilots on Air France Flight 447 depended too heavily on the plane's autopilot system, and were not properly trained to deal with the high-altitude stall that occurred while the pilot was taking a scheduled nap. Tapes recovered last year from the 2009 crash reveal that a co-pilot made a fatal mistake when the autopilot disengaged, causing the crash that killed all 228 passengers and crew.

Pilots are not being trained to deal with such situations, says Bill Voss, chief of the Flight Safety Foundation, who notes that pilots are only manually flying for three minutes of the average flight—90 seconds at takeoff and 90 at landing. "We are moving toward automated operations where the pilot isn't even permitted to fly," he says. "That means the first time in your career you will ever feel what an aircraft feels like at 35,000 feet is when it's handed to you broken." Investigators will release their final report on the crash next month.

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